DL D.J. Jones
The big defensive tackle has been coming on during the Broncos’ winning streak after something of a slow start to the season. He made two plays against Buffalo out along the sideline. On Sunday night against Minnesota, he forced an Alexander Mattison fumble. In the closing moments, he rolled right over center Garrett Bradbury and hit quarterback Josh Dobbs, forcing an intentional grounding penalty.
S Justin Simmons
The turnovers are going to get all the attention, but Simmons made two fantastic plays on Minnesota’s last-ditch drive by knocking the ball away from tight end T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson’s a big, strong player, but Simmons wouldn’t be denied. Ever since he returned from injury in Week 5, Simmons has been terrific. And he even got an offensive snap as the deep back in victory formation to close out a win on his 30th birthday. Pretty good Sunday.
RB Samaje Perine
The veteran running back is seeing his playing time tick up thanks to his knack for making plays in the passing game and his ability in pass protection. One of his four catches on the game-winning drive, a third-down conversion of seven yards, was particularly impressive because he looked set to help with protection, recognized a four-man rush and leaked out for an easy pick-up. Perine’s third on the team in catches (32), receiving yards (326) and first downs generated on receptions (16).
WR Courtland Sutton
The Broncos’ top receiver isn’t likely to finish with a massive number of yards this year (he’s now at 499 through 10 games, an 848-yard pace), but he’s having a really good season nonetheless. Two numbers that encapsulate Sutton’s production: His eight touchdowns are already a career best and are double what he’d totaled in 33 games over the previous three seasons. Also, before this year his best catch percentage for a year was 59.7% of his targets in 2021. This year with Russell Wilson? 72.6%. He’s become Wilson’s most-trusted target.
Minnesota’s defense provides a unique challenge, no doubt. Mike McGlinchey said the Broncos faced, “about every defensive front in the history of football,” on Sunday night. Even still, Denver generated just 46 rushing yards on 15 attempts. Over the past two games, they’ve not had a rushing play longer than 15 yards. Javonte Williams is a reliable, bruising back, but as Jaleel McLaughlin’s production has dwindled in recent weeks, so, too, has the explosiveness in the Broncos’ rushing attack. They’ve got to find a way to be more consistent and generate more big plays.
Unlike the run game, the Broncos’ run defense has been a consistent trouble spot this year and it’s not just a 350-yard outing by Miami tilting the stats. In fact, the Broncos have given up 192 and 175 in the past two games, though they’ve figured out how to win both. Denver’s given up 170-plus five times in 10 games this season and is going to get burned sooner or later if it can’t slow opponents down. The 1,600 rushing yards allowed this season and 5.5 allowed per carry are both the worst marks in the NFL.
S Kareem Jackson
The veteran safety was lucky to make it past the third snap of his return from suspension. Jackson launched into Minnesota quarterback Josh Dobbs on a third-down fumble. The play wasn’t penalized on the field, so Jackson avoided scrutiny from the NFL’s review center at least for the remainder of the game. The hit easily could have wiped a turnover off the board, but as it stands Jackson is likely to get disciplined by the league again, potentially in the form of a second suspension. Jackson’s still a productive player and he’s got a lot of trust among his teammates, but the way he hits continues to hurt Denver more than it helps. And that’s to say nothing of the position it puts opposing players in.
CB Damarri Mathis
The Broncos second-year corner has had a rough sophomore campaign. He struggled early and lost his starting job to Fabian Moreau. He got demoted to playing the dime spot, but some of that work on Sunday night went to rookie Riley Moss. Mathis has ability and he might yet be counted on this season if injuries crop up. For now, though, it’s been a forgettable fall for the 2022 fourth-round pick out of Pitt.
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